By Ray Hamill — Collegiate tennis will return to the North Coast for the first time in a few decades next spring, and long-time local coach Jason Maki is determined to make it stick this time around.
Maki was recently named the head coach of the new College of the Redwoods women’s tennis program, which will begin play next spring.
And the former Corsair says the opportunity to go back to his old school to coach the inaugural CR women’s team was too much to pass up.
“It’s kind of really cool coming back here and being able to give back to CR,” said Maki, who graduated Humboldt State after his time at CR. “I jumped at the chance to start the inaugural women’s tennis team here.”
Maki brings over 30 years of coaching experience to the position, having played the sport at St. Bernard’s, where he was crowned H-DNL champion as a senior in 1989/90.
Since then he has coached at a variety of levels, including stints at St. Bernard’s, Eureka and Arcata high schools, as well as with some big tennis academies.
“I was able to work with some of the highest level juniors,” said Maki, who has spent time working with the Los Gatos Tennis Academy and the No Quit Tennis Academy in Las Vegas. “So I’m super excited, with all my experience, to bring that level of teaching to this area.”
The new coach will have to hit the ground running, with recruiting an immediate priority, and he says he is hoping to maintain a team of around 15, including several H-DNL players, who recently finished up their season.
“With recruiting you have to have a multi-tier approach,” he said.
That includes building the game locally at the grass roots level, with camps and clinics and local involvement, as well as letting the 40-45 high schools he is allowed to recruit from know that CR now has a team.
“A big part of it for me is just to get the word out there,” he said. “Really, for me the next few months, it’s going to be about contacting all the high schools.”
His deep ties within the local tennis community will definitely help.
In addition to coaching in the H-DNL for several years, Maki is also a former owner of the Eureka Indoor Tennis Club and has been involved in the sport locally since his high school days.
“I think the community will get behind it,” he said of the new program. “I think we’ll have a lot of support.”
After moving out of the area in 2007 to take advantage of coaching opportunities, Maki moved back here in 2016 to be closer to his daughter Mileena, who was a senior at St. Bernard’s at the time.
That season, she followed in the footsteps of her father and won the H-DNL championship, and as far as Jason Maki knows they are the only local father and daughter combo to both win an H-DNL championship in the sport.